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Showing posts from July, 2007

PR pirates: how to blip the radar screen

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Stranded on the tarmac in Orlando this aft, I finally had time to read through some articles I'd been storing on my trusty laptop. Seems to me this item from Poets & Writers was sent to me by a fellow working girl after a conversation about how midlist authors can catch some of the free PR that flows so freely to our industry betters.

In "Literary Journalists: How to Get on Their Radar", Jen A. Miller writes:
Those authors savvy about acting as their own publicists also probably know, as any good (and not-so-good) publicist does, that freelance writers are invaluable contacts. Of the 320,000 editors and writers working in the United States, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that one-third are independently employed. That's more than 100,000 of us freelancers out there, searching for the next great story...The author-freelancer connection can be fruitful for both parties. So how can literary writers align themselves with freelancers? Not all freelancers are the…

The buzz on Morbid Curiosity by Deborah LeBlanc

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It seemed like the answer to Haley’s prayers. The most popular girl in her high school promised Haley that her life would change forever if only she performed certain dark rituals. And if Haley can convince her twin sister to participate, their power will double. Together they will be able to summon mystical entities they never dared dream of. But these are powerful, uncontrollable forces, forces that can kill—forces that demand to be fed . . .
If this leaves you wanting to know more about Deborah LeBlanc's new thriller Morbid Curiosity, you're in luck. It's avaialable in bookstores everywhere (and online, of course) this month.

The buzz:
“One of the best new voices of supernatural thrillers!” ~ Cemetery Dance

“It’s now official: Deborah LeBlanc has become a master not only of good spooky stories, but also of crafting great characters to fill them!” ~ Horror Fiction Review

“An imaginative chiller. Riveting!” ~ Publishers Weekly

“Ms. LeBlanc’s tale is a powerful, gripping read, w…

Deborah LeBlanc: one writer's curious beginning

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Deborah LeBlanc is out on the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit this week with her new thriller, Morbid Curiosity.

I'm always fascinated by writers' beginnings, so noodling around Deborah's web site, I was intrigued to discover that she's a licensed death scene investigator (which is actually not a surprising genesis for the president of the Horror Writers Association.) I also loved this little backstory:
Her first short story was written in the second grade, a tale about a misfit mermaid who grew legs. Admonished for writing the story instead of doing an assigned arithmetic lesson, Deborah's teacher confiscated the pages, and as recompense for not following instructions, gave her an additional math lesson to complete. At the end of the school day, the teacher pulled Deborah aside. Fearing that she might be forced to do additional math, Deborah listened in amazement as the teacher told her she'd read the mermaid story, thought she was a wonderful storyteller, and encoura…

What's Opera, Doc?

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Okay, it's Friday. Time to lighten up for a moment. I woke up from a dream about my favorite Bugs Bunny short, "What's Opera, Doc?", the send up of Wagnerian splendor starring Bugs and Elmer Fudd. I loved this cartoon when I was a little girl. The first time I saw it, I was so taken with it, I got my big sister Diana to help me search through the gigantic bins of record albums upstairs at the public library for the source music. We found Wagner...and Puccini...and Verdi...and my lifelong love of opera was born.

I dream about this Bugs ep from time to time, and I have all sorts of theories about why. Perhaps my subconscious is telling me to lighten up. Or perhaps it's reminding me of the fundamental elements of story that remain unchanged from Die Feen to das Fudd. Or maybe it's something far deeper about the psycho-sexual ramifications of the cross-dressing Bugs. Or maybe it's something about the smallest, silliest seed growing into a lifelong passion.

Pon…

A few things that just make my head hurt

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Poor Colleen is suffering from the mother of all migraines this week. My heart seriously goes (very quietly) out to her. One of the glib little expressions that oft crosses my lips is, "That just makes my head hurt," and while I will be a little less cavalier about tossing that very relative phrase around for a while, I thought I'd share a few of those things people say that just flog my noggin with a 2X4.

"Everybody has a book in them."
No. They don't. Writers have books in them, and sometimes getting that book out is only slightly less effort than gestating and giving birth to a walrus. Other times it comes out like the toothy little creature that bursts from the guy's abdomen in the movie Alien. My standard response to this one is, "Everybody has a spleen in them, too. Only on rare occasions should it be taken out and displayed on a shelf."

"I'm writing a fiction novel."
Ow! Ow! My head! I can't even think of a scathing respon…

Tool Time: backing up online

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Friday night at Midwives, we were discussing cheap/free ways to back up and store manuscripts online, a topic which usually begins with horror stories about some massive amount of words being lost to fire, floods, or computer crashes. I was a bad backer-upper for a long time and really lived with my heart in my throat about it until I did my first away from home ghost gig. Living in a funky little theatre neighborhood apartment in Manhattan, working for a client who frankly scared me (and whose project will never see the light of day), I realized I seriously needed online storage in case my lap top was stolen.

First I sent myself a Gmail invitation and set up an address with the name of the project to which I could email everything as I wrote it. I like that Gmail is organized through a super-searchable archive instead of folders. Now I set up a Gmail account for each book project, send the drafts there as I work, and forward copies of all my email pertaining to the book to that book&#…

It's All Relative

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As I've prepared lectures for an online class I'm teaching (Emotionally Engage from the Very First Page), I've been doing a lot of analytical thinking about what makes certain stories and in particular certain characters reach out and grab me by the gut. I can easily list characters with whom I immediately bonded and would follow anywhere (sometimes through some pretty damned unlikely plots.) Among the standouts: Gus McCrae (Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry), Odd Thomas (Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz), Stephanie Plum (One for the Money, Janet Evanovich), Harry Potter (If you don't know, I'm not telling). Sure, there have been books whose plots, premises, and writing styles gripped me -- books that were wildly successful by anybody's standards. (Although I thorougly enjoyed The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown, I really didn't care about the protagonists as people.) But the ones whose *characters* captured my imagination are the ones I recall most vividly, and not coin…

Lily Allen makes deplorable adorable

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My daughter Jerusha recently introduced me to the delightfully profane music of British singer/songwriter Lily Allen, who looks like Petula Clark, sings like your baby sister, and says stuff like...like this:
There was a little old lady, who was walkin down the road
She was struggling with bags from Tesco
There were people from the city havin lunch in the park
I believe that it's called al fresco
Then a kid came along to offer a hand

But before she had time to accept it
hits her over the head, doesn't care if she's dead
Cause he's got all her jewellery and wallet

And I guess this would be Lily's idea of a love song:

Now listen I think you and me have come to the end of our time,
What d'you want some kind of reaction?
Well ok that's fine,
Alright how would it make you feel if I told you that you never ever made me come?
In the year and a half that we spent together,
Yeah I never really had much fun...

I could see it in your face when you give it to me gentle,
Yeah you …

Of Mice and Muggles

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I'm resolving right now to spend the rest of my summer reading time on the publishing phenomenom I should have been following for years: Harry Potter.

My reading stack grows a lot faster than I can read, so books about a boy wizard were easy to set aside. I mean, the size of the tomes alone makes them gravitate toward the bottom of my heap. My kids have been bugging me to read Harry Potter books since the first one came out ten years ago, and at 18 and 20 years old, they are both planning to be standing in line tomorrow at midnight when the last Potter book goes on sale.

What finally made me resolve to cross over to the dark side was an article in today's New York Times, which says in part:
It is Ms. Rowling’s achievement in this series that she manages to make Harry both a familiar adolescent — coping with the banal frustrations of school and dating — and an epic hero, kin to everyone from the young King Arthur to Spider-Man and Luke Skywalker. This same magpie talent has enable…

Remembering the Dream

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Back in 1998, I attended my very first national Romance Writers of America convention with two things: a newly-signed contract on my first novel and a dream, the dream that at the following year's conference, I, too, would be among the hundreds of authors signing for literacy.

It was a powerful dream, filled with longing and excitement, and when it finally happened, it marked an achievement I would never forget.

The dream remains, as vivid as ever. I glimpsed it in the faces of hundreds of yet-to-be-sold authors. I saw it in the shining eyes of my brilliant critique partner, T.J. Bennett, whose debut historical romance, The Legacy, will be out in time for next year's signing. And I saw the culmination of the dream in the smiles of West Houston RWA chaptermates Teri Thackston and Brandy Jordan (pictured above) as they sat on the other side of the aisle for the very first time with their debut novels.

Like a lot of other authors, I tend to focus on the new goals and lose sight of …

Eliciting Emotion

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One of the best things I did while attending the RWA National Conference in Dallas was spending two hours listening to screenwriting consultant Michael Hauge give a talk called "From Identity to Essence: Love Stories and Transformation." It was a session filled with little gems, and you don't have to be a romance writer to understand their importance.

Hauge spoke of the number one principal of story to be eliciting emotion. A lot of people might wrinkle their noses, thinking of purple prose and melodrama, but that's only what you call it when it's done poorly. What the author is trying to do is help the reader experience the protagonist's authentic emotions by pulling him/her so deep into the character's experience that he/she is experiencing the tension, fighting the fear, or falling in love with the one person who sees through her mask (outward-projected identity) to the fully-realized potential (essence) beneath.

That was one of the many things Hauge sa…

Focus

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Just back from the annual conference of the Romance Writers of America, I'm feeling tired, brain-buzzed, and more convinced than ever that the real name of the publishing game -- at least when it comes to the writer -- is her focus.

It's so easy to be swept up in new trends, the latest self-promotion frenzy, and the sheer energy of great ideas. So easy to get lost in "I Should Be Doing That, Too" that we lose sight of what's important.

So what's important? For each person, the answer will be different, and usually, it takes many years to figure out that target: the personal definition of success at which all the arrows of one's effort should be aimed. Since the target varies with each person, so will the methods of reaching it. In other words, what's worked for an author writing with one goal/audience in mind probably won't work for you. That's why trend-chasers rarely catch up to trend-setters. And why a truly great book can easily outrun both.

Julie Kenner: Demons Are Forever

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“What would happen if Buffy the Vampire Slayer got married, moved to the suburbs and became a stay-at-home mom? She’d be a lot like Kate Conner.” ~ Publishers Weekly
Gotta love my fellow Texan and sister in caffeine addiction, Julie Kenner, who says she "spent four years mainlining nonfat lattes" in order to write, practice law full time and take care of kid #1. Now powered by plenty of bestselling buzz (not to mention that second baby girl), Julie has finally quit the proverbial day job. She's writing full time, making the rounds on the Girlfriend Cyber Circuit this week with her latest in as series about a demon hunting mom, which strikes me as a combination rife with both symbolism and comic potential.

Here's the taste-tempting PR on Demons Are Forever: Confessions of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom:
Kate Connor is the busiest – and most dangerous – mommy on the block! Having traded in her professional life for the rewarding (yet arguably less glamorous) duties of a stay-…

Very superstitious, writing's on the wall

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I consider myself spiritual, but not exactly religious. I wouldn't say I'm superstitious, either, but I have a longstanding ritual that I observe every time I send out a manuscript, proposal, or demo materials.

Up for a crazy cool co-author gig, I FedExed copies of my last two books to the prospective client today. Before I handed over the package, I kissed it, pressed it to my forehead, and whispered, "Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace." That's the only prayer I allow myself to speak on behalf of my career, because so often the things we think would be super chilly awesome blow up in our faces, and the things that we would have never in a million years thought to pray for pay out big time.

It took me a long time to figure out that this is the essence (for me) of faith. Not that I believe with unshakable certainty that God will hear and obey my mandates, but that I am peaceful and open to any of the possible tides and eddies of the Tao.

Remember that classic …

Just sitting here spinning straw into gold

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Okay, my mom and I were talking yesterday and somehow the subject of Rumpelstiltskin came up. I think I said something about writers being expected to spin straw into gold just like...well, that girl...who was locked in the attic and told to spin straw into gold.

"Yes, what was her name?" said Mom. "Not Rapunzel..."

What was her name? I had no idea, and it became one of those niggling questions that gets stuck in your head like the little song they play on the Small World ride at Disney World. (Don't fight it. Resistance is futile. Just sing it over and over until you either pass out or hit yourself in the head with a hammer, and meanwhile, what was that chick's name?!)

Answer: She doesn't have one.

Some poking around today turned up nothing more than "the miller's daughter" and later in the story, "the queen." I find that kind of interesting. How could she not have a name?

"She doesn't get a name because the story's no…

Behind light words

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Walking the doggies in a swampy area up the road a while back, I saw an orchid.

Got the same feeling early this morning when I came upon this poem:

Revelation
by Robert Frost

We make ourselves a place apart
Behind light words that tease and flout,
But oh, the agitated heart
Till someone really find us out.

'Tis pity if the case require
(Or so we say) that in the end
We speak the literal to inspire
The understanding of a friend.

But so with all, from babes that play
At hide-and-seek to God afar,
So all who hide too well away
Must speak and tell us where they are.
from Collected Poems, Prose, & Plays

Me and Mr. Toad: We look brave...but are we?

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A horrible thing happened this morning. I was mowing the lawn and hit a large toad. It didn't kill him, but it lopped off a significant portion of his snout. So I guess, yeah, by now it has most likely killed him. (Please God, make it have killed him.) When I saw him blinking up at me and realized I was seeing the fine ivory bone of his mandible and the pulse of...something...in his gaping mouth, I screamed, scooped him up, and ran inside, chanting like a monk, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"

When Gary heard me crying and frantic, he came hobbling (he blew out his knee, which is why he's not mowing the damn lawn) thinking I'd hurt myself. I held the poor creature forward between my hands, and it writhed in pain and terror.

"I hit a toad with the mower!" I cried. "Get me something to put him in! We have to take him to the vet!"

"Let me see," Gary said calmly. He gently took the toad, carried it out back, and tossed it int…

Mother to the man

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My son turned 20 yesterday. He is twenty years old.

Twenty. Years. Old.

Here he is on a train in London:

Here he is inside my head:

I am the mother of a man. He's educated me far more than I could have ever hoped to educate him. Over the past two decades, in addition to making me laugh daily and investing my life with enormous joy and meaning, he's shown me the pragmatics of how a human being unfolds, and I can't begin to quantify what that's done for me as a writer.

He and his 18-year-old sister are spending the week in Amsterdam while Gary and I sit home repeating "anne frank house anne frank house anne frank house", because isn't that what young people go to Amsterdam for? That and the Van Gogh Museum, right? Nod now. Please.

My sanity has been saved by Gmail's chat feature. I've been clinging to my computer, hoping to see a little green icon by my son's name on my contact list. At first things were not going Dutchtastically well. They arrived…

In the Company of Writers

This coming week, I'll be AWOL from BtO as I travel to Dallas for the national conference of the Romance Writers of America. This will be either the ninth or tenth such conference I've attended, and over the years, I've found my reasons for going have changed.

At first, I was there for the workshops. I attended everything possible (exhausting myself in the process) and nearly swooned to see Nora Roberts and many other favorites. I dutifully showed up at every reception and luncheon, and I went to every publisher spotlight to hang on each editors' words of wisdom in the hope of picking up a clue. (This is a good thing, as I was desperately in need of one.) I enjoyed hearing presentations by agents and more experienced authors and really picked up a ton of information.

I still swoon over a few authors and attend a few of the workshops. I still go to some of the publishers' spotlights, where I try to winnow possible shifts in direction from the chaff of propoganda and &…

Colleen hits the bookstores Head On!

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BtO mainstay Colleen Thompson hit the bookstores this week with her latest sexy thriller, Head On, a novel inspired by the tragic story of a collision that took the lives of several teens and by Colleen's sister's career as a traveling hospice nurse.

First, check out the flap copy so we're all on the same page:

Hell On Wheels...

The full moon brings out the crazies; anyone in emergency services knows that. But for hospice nurse Beth Ann Decker, the gruesome murder that rocks Hatcher County is shockingly unexpected. As is the return of the Texas community's most hated prodigal son -- Mark Jessup. Sixteen years before, the town's bad boy was behind the wheel of a pickup that left three cheerleaders dead and Beth Ann so badly injured that people whispered she'd have been better off in the grave with them.

Jessup is all man now -- tough, uncompromising, rich -- and a possible suspect in this new killing. Beth Ann knows he's the last person she should be spending t…

Four for the Fourth: Why American Writers Have It Good

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On the Fourth of July, it seems appropriate to say Happy Birthday, USA, and to list four reasons I'm grateful, not only as a human being but as a writer, to live in this country.

1. Creativity is valued. From Hollywood to Nashville to New York, writers are valued for, if nothing else, their contribution to commerce. Whether the world loves or hates this country, its contribution to entertainment can't be denied.
2. By and large, the government leaves writers alone. There's no hit squad that shows up at your door after midnight and drags you off, never to be seen again, if you're critical of the regime du jour. No religious police will have you stoned or branded or run you out of the country should your work be deemed "sinful".
3. America gets the power of a dream. We're a nation that takes its dreamers more seriously than most, a country that understands that no matter a person's gender, race, religion, age, or disability, he or she still has the potenti…

The Kernel of Arrogance

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In her excellent post, Joni mentioned my thoughts on the "kernel of arrogance" each writer needs to be successful, so I thought I'd expand on the theory.

In the heart of every writer, there must lie a tiny kernel of arrogance, hard enough to withstand all slings and arrows. That kernel is what allows the writer to keep from folding to rejections, requests that squash her vision for her work, lousy (i.e. "misguided" reviews), and of course the odds. ("Never tell me the odds!") It's what allows the writer to believe she has something worth saying and to write with sufficient confidence to veer from the expected and take creative risks.

Faced with too much heat and pressure, the kernel will pop, so you have to tend it carefully. Soaked in too much hubris, it with expand and swell until your kernel resembles the KFC Colonel in parade-leading regalia, which is not only obnoxious but can prevent you from hearing valuable advice.

Keeping one's balance …

Interview with Jessica Trapp

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Tired of overachievers beating down your psyche by telling you how they whipped out a book in two weeks? Historical (and hysterical) romance author Jessica Trapp, has a great solution for the mortals among us.

BtO: Welcome, Jessica, and could you first tell us about SLOW?

Jessica: LOL! S.L.O.W. stands for Snail-paced League of Ornery Writers. A couple of friends and I were having lunch together, moaning and groaning about how that whole book in a month or week (What's next? A book in 24 hours?) makes us want to hurl to even think about. All of us took a long time to get the words on the page and found the process of writing tedious and grueling. We decided to start our own club to console ourselves. In our club nobody could brag about writing 70 pages in a day or some other such insanity. Mostly our meetings include very important, extremely organized and high-falootin' ideas and plans like, "Hey, I'm free today, you wanna go to lunch?" Although lately I&#…